I’m Bridget Owens and you're listening to the Waxing Soul podcast. Join me on an exploration of mindful modern magic, a journey towards deeper understanding of self and transformative individual spirituality. It's April 29, 2021, and on today's episode we'll be discussing the importance of ritual and the importance of creating and personalizing our own rituals. Are you ready to grow your soul?
Next week, and I cannot believe Spring has flown by so fast, but next week I’m going to kick off a seven episode series on the basics of magic. But before that, I wanted to do a couple of episodes kind of reframing some of the elements of our spiritual lives so we’re going into that series having gotten more clear on stuff like what’s the point of learning magic, where do our beliefs and goals fit along side our magic practice, and then today the purpose and importance of ritual.
And this is one of those… I talked recently, and, well, I talk a lot about how my whole spiritual life and practice as it exists now grew out of this need to understand why, if I didn’t believe in religion, in deities, in the mandate of a higher power to do certain things certain ways… Given all that, why did I still seek out ritual and spiritual practice?
So ritual is something kind of central to my spiritual life already. And not just in terms of, you know, big church or big tradition rituals, not just candles and chanting and circles of people. All kinds of ritual including personal, private rituals. Our lives are absolutely full of rituals of all kinds, and when it comes to making our lives more magical, what we often look to do is create magical rituals to work into our lives. Which is great!
But I think what we often overlook is how much magic is already in the rituals that are part of our lives, and how much of that ritual can be elevated in terms of how magical they are.
So, I’ve mentioned before that I was briefly Catholic, and part of what really drew me to that on my spiritual path was the ritual. I grew up in a very different type of church tradition. Small evangelical protestant churches with very small congregations, kind of stripped down and informal, none of the pomp and circumstance. So there was something about… And to be fair, a lot of my exposure to Catholicism was in France, so we’re talking Medieval cathedrals and all that. But there’s just so much ritual involved in Catholic traditions that has been intentionally stripped away from a lot of American Protestant traditions, and there was just something about that formal ritual and the fact that it’s kind of universal that was really appealing to me.
And there is something about that form of communal, shared ritual, cultural ritual, that’s an inherent part of human society, human culture. It’s part of who we are. It’s about shared experiences and a shared language of behavior that ties us together in very large groups.
So there’s definitely something about shared rituals which bind us to the rest of however we see ourselves fitting into whatever spiritual community we’re in. There are commonalities to known practices among people in established traditions or religions. Those things are what we first think about when we think about magic ritual.
But we don’t just share rituals and culture in very large groups through formal ritual. We have little rituals we share with our friends and family, even just personal rituals we don’t share with anyone but ourselves. And those are, I would argue, even more significant on a spiritual level than the big fancy rituals. Rituals around meals, around special occasions, around gatherings, right down to things like taking off your shoes in the house or saying a prayer before a meal or watching certain TV shows on certain nights.
Those don’t maybe seem very magical or spiritual, but here’s the thing about magic and ritual. Magic is all about tapping into the subconscious, communicating on a soul deep level, and ritual is one of the easiest ways to hack our subconscious brains. Repetition. Symbolism. Getting into a non-standard state of mind, state of consciousness through something of a scripted series of actions.
And there’s nothing about magic that says it needs to be specifically religious or, you know, woo woo. Even the most basic of personal rituals can work to further our evolution, to help us achieve things or manifest things in life in essentially a magical way even if it doesn’t, you know, reek of magic.
And when it comes to those kinds of personally spiritually significant rituals, it makes a huge difference how much thought we’ve put into choosing which rituals are part of our lives and actually creating rituals for ourselves.
One of the mistakes I think a lot of new magical practitioners make is leaning mostly on the rituals and practices that they find through research or that they know other people do, and shying away from creating their own rituals and practices. Because it’s the stuff that is significant and meaningful to us that is most powerful.
Actually, it reminds me of… You know how there are so, so many articles and things about how successful people or whatever get up early and have some kind of morning routine, morning ritual. So it’s become this thing where if people want to be successful, they do the same morning routine or ritual as successful people they know about. But it’s not the ritual itself that holds the secrets to success. It’s why those people have those routines and the intentions behind what they choose to do with their morning hours. If we don’t have any significant connection to those things, they’re not meaningful rituals.
If you're enjoying this episode of Waxing Soul, subscribe to the show! Each week we will dive into a different part of the world of spirituality, magic, and self-evolution. Check out last week's episode where we discussed the difference between a belief system and a spiritual path and why it matters in the process of building our authentic spiritual life. And come back next week when we will kick off the 7-episode series on The Basics of Magic.
When we start talking about the basics of magic next week, one thing we’re not really going to talk about is the actual structure of a magical practice. Which is why I wanted to talk about this in advance of that series.
The thing is, we don’t have to create a magical practice from scratch. We don’t have to rearrange our lives to incorporate our magical practice. The foundation is already there because our whole lives are filled with rituals. Everything from the generational traditions of your family or the historical traditions of the cultural group you belong to right down to things like sequence of actions you take when you come into your house or special things you wear for certain occasions.
So when I talk about building or creating your own authentic magical practice, the foundation of what each of us ends up building is really those rituals that already have a place in our lives. Those particular rituals are already kind of pre-connected to our subconscious. They already mean something to us. They’re already tied in to our own little language of meaning and what’s important to us.
So if you’ve ever tried introducing completely new rituals or practices of some kind that are just a huge deviation from what you usually do in your life, you’ve probably found it’s very very hard to integrate those things into your existence and really connect with them. It’s not because ritual is hard to adopt, it’s because those rituals need to be meaningful and personal in a way we can’t really force.
And the connection we have to these rituals, especially the small private ones that are personal just to us, is really important because rituals have a purpose. Rituals are especially effective in I guess you can say hacking our emotional reactions to things. They can help us build our confidence, feel more calm, raise up our energy and motivate us, alleviate grief, all those things.
Sounds kinda like magic, right?
Rituals hack our emotional programming. And on a larger scale, rituals hack our cultural connections. It creates a shared set of experiences that we share with people who are really otherwise strangers to us. They can also be something like shorthand, forming a shared vocabulary of meaning and ritual and identity which jump-starts our relationship with others in our group.
So if we have some understanding of the rituals which are already part of our lives, it becomes pretty easy to just, you know, add magic to them to really build a practice.
The thing is, and I’m going to go back to this question of why I am drawn to spirituality even as an atheist, the thing is that there aren’t any humans who don’t have a life full of rituals. I don’t care how carefree and not tied down and completely averse to, like, doing anything the same ever, I promise you still have your rituals. You might think of them as habits, but some of those habits are really rituals. You might think they don’t mean anything, but they do. The order of actions you take when you take a shower. Regular gatherings like weekly D&D nights with your friends. Lots of little rituals.
It’s something that all humans do. It’s important to all of us. Ritual is just human. It’s basic human behavior. So if ritual is kind of part of human base programming, it’s definitely the first place we should look for not just places in our lives to work in more magic, to build a magical practice from. And really considering our rituals, the particular language of ritual that speaks to each of us, that speaks to our soul, to our subconscious, delving into that is really the key to figuring out what kind of magic, what kind of spiritual ritual is going to be effective for each of us individually.
Just like really taking a deep look at what rituals bind us together as families, as friend groups, as cultural groups, whatever, really looking at that language of pattern and behavior and meaning that we share is the key to creating magical practices which have real impact on the larger dynamics of society.
It’s like learning to speak our own natural language. What situations make have we created rituals around? What types of personal ritual do we do the most of? Where do our rituals come from? Do we learn them? Do we make them up? Do we seek them out? And then looking at them as forms of magic that we already naturally practice is really important as well.
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We often say humans are creatures of habit, and it’s so very true. And it’s funny because in some ways all us modern humans are kind of obsessed with that idea in various ways, kind of conflicted about whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Like if we just do things by habit without any real self-examination then we’re not being mindful and we’re not being present in our lives, we’re not being intentional. But on the other hand we also know that if we just swap our so called bad habits for good habits, even though that’s easier said than done, then a lot of what we see as problems in our lives would be solved. Like, you know, getting into a strong morning routine or changing our eating habits or whatever.
And what I don’t hear much talk about is how this fits in with spiritual practice, magical practice. Rituals and habits are, if they’re not always the same thing, they’re very related. They either are habits or they teach habits. That’s how they’re kind of tied straight into our subconscious minds, which is where the magic works.
So building a magical practice is really a matter of nurturing magical habits. Those habits are little rituals. And our habits are also linked in with our ways of thinking, of reacting, of making decisions.
If you start the sentence, “I have this habit of…” – And this is a great exercise to get a little window into your authentic self, by the way – The ways we finish that sentence are going to point us to the little rituals we already have in our lives.
I have this habit of getting really into a topic and being deeply invested in it for a while and then moving onto something else.
I have this habit of drinking a cup of broth in the morning instead of coffee.
I have this habit of picking through every clearance rack I see, even if I don’t want to buy anything.
I have this habit of zeroing in on nice ink pens and collecting as many as I can get when I find the good ones.
Those things are little private rituals, right? And those are the things that hold and contain our personal magic. It’s so easy to consciously turn those into the basis of our magical practice, our spiritual practice.
So since I know I do this hyperfocus thing with topics, I’m purposeful about how that plays out in my spiritual development, letting my intuition lead me to the spiritual topics or projects or whatever that I’m interested in and focusing my spirituality around that for as long as I feel it energetically drawing me in, and actually making the structure of my spirituality to sync up with that. I don’t just drink broth in the morning, the spagyric tinctures and elixirs I make in my alchemy practice go into there as well. When I see clearance racks and yard sales and whatever, I look to that as a way for the universe to kind of put useful magical tools or materials or things which inspire ideas in my path – that’s where fun things manifest for me. I don’t just collect nice ink pens, I collect ink pens which are magical tools that get used to write and draw magical things. The magic is already there, right? Or at least its potential is there.
So as we go through the foundational principles of what is magic and all of that in this series that’s starting next week, this is a really important thing to keep in mind because you’ll start to see the parts in your life where the magic is already there even if that’s not what we’ve been calling it or that’s not how we think about it.
So here’s what I want everyone to know about the series starting next week. I’ll be doing seven episodes on the Basics of Magic here on the podcast, so you’ll want to be here for that. And instead of one page downloads I’m going to do longer form downloads with journal prompts and activity challenges and such. Plus, in May and in June there will be one day each month set up for a livestream Q&A on my YouTube channel. It’s going to be a really good time, I’m super excited about it, super excited about the stuff I’m creating, and I’m super excited to have you all join me on this little journey. Have a wonderful Beltane on Saturday!
Thank you so much for listening. New episodes of the Waxing Soul drop every Thursday. All materials and resources except the music are copyright Bridget Owens. Many thanks to my readers, listeners, friends, mentors, inspirations, and my framily for riding with me into season two. Until next week, blessed be and be good to yourself.